Photo courtesy of Gerhard Peters

YAMENer Gerhard Peters (right) attended ALBA, an interchurch worship event, with young people from the church (l-r): Josue Roman Cavero, Santiago Contreras, Betsabé Barrón; back row: Misael Barrón (red shirt).

“During this year I have learned to be more curious and adventurous. When I return to my country, I hope to be a better servant for Christ and in my church, and also to be more daring when assuming responsibilities,” says Gerhard Peters, a 2018–2019 YAMEN (Young Anabaptist Mennonite Exchange Network) participant.

The young man from a Mennonite colony in the northern Mexican state of Chihuahua served at Centro Meno, a resource centre in Santa Cruz, Bolivia. The centre offers Low German literature and programming on health and farming for the approximately 100,000 Low German Mennonites in Bolivia. These innovative yet traditional rural people live in some 90 colonies in rural Bolivia.

“I feel fulfilled every time I am able to help a person find a book of interest or assist them with some doubt or question that they have,” he says.

Peters works in the centre’s library, helping people find books or Die Mennonitische Post newspapers or simply talking with visitors.

YAMENer Gerhard Peters and MCC volunteer Abe Janzen converse with Abram and Anna Enns of Durango Colony, Bolivia.Photo courtesy of Gerhard Peters

He speaks up to four languages in his work: Low German/Plautdietsch with the colony Mennonites, English with international members of MCC’s team at Centro Meno, German – mostly to read books or newspapers in the library – and Spanish with his host family and church.

Everything is a little different than he’s used to – even the way the languages are spoken – but Peters learns quickly.

“We worship the same God. And the church makes me feel at home,” he says.

“I am so pleased that they included me in the worship team even though many of the songs were new to me,” says Peters, who sings with the music group at Iglesia Evangélica Menonita Boliviana Sinaí. “They are patient with me as I learn [the songs].

“The youth at the church, and people in general, made me feel at home,” he says listing football championships, camps on national holidays and many times of worship and games that the youth participate in together.

An unforgettable moment was the ALBA Easter worship, celebrated this year in Santa Cruz. Beginning at midnight, praise, prayers, drama and preaching ran for six hours with some 40,000 people in attendance from 600 churches.

“It was surprising to see so many churches come together in unity to celebrate such an important event in the Christian calendar,” he says.

Peters says he values the relationships he developed with MCC Bolivia workers and other youth on exchange programs.

“Each of us is working to make the world a better place, and my service year flew by while each of them collaborated with me. I will be returning with many great experiences, unforgettable moments and joys.

“I learned so much during this year and am very grateful to all the people who were part of my volunteer year,” says Peters. “Not everything was easy or as I expected it to be. But in this, as in all situations, God was there and by my side, and I could completely trust in him. To God be the glory and honour!”

YAMEN is a joint program of Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) and Mennonite World Conference (MWC).